Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

April 5, 2012

Brew 2 Brew, 44 mile, 1 April 2012

Record-breaking heat.  Jet-lag. 44 mile run. Ouch. 

The 44 mile Brew To Brew race runs from the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas.   Over 4000 runners participate in what is mostly a relay race, where teams of 10 or fewer run legs of about 4 miles each.

A few hardy souls sign up each year to run the whole distance.  I was one of those, wondering why arriving on an international flight less than 12 hours before the start of the race had EVER seemed like a good idea.  Plus the weather forecast was calling for brilliant sunshine with the highest temps ever recorded on April 1, namely 31 C or almost 90 F. 

At 6 a.m., team cars were arriving by the busload as the solos lined up for the start.  It was already warm enough that just a shirt and shorts felt warm enough, and only the thought of the possible sunburn later in the day made me keep my shirt on for the race.  Chariots of Fire was motivationally playing on the loudspeakers as we set off with a police motorcycle escort into the darkness.
It must be said that the course was somewhat monotonous, following a flat straight course along the river for miles and miles on end.  Runners ahead didn't disappear around a corner...they disappeared in the haze miles in front of me.  However, the second half was a lot more rolling, with gentle hills that gave a break to tired legs (and was a good excuse for walking in the heat). 
The miles were ticking off very slowly at about mile 15, when I suddenly tripped over a metal grate in the gutter and then slid into it.  Various race personnel saw me and there was soon a small crowd hovering, with a voice calling "I'm a nurse, are you ok?"  Honestly, I was mostly concerned about my bag of gummy bears, which had flown out of my hand and was in danger of disappearing into the holes of the grate.  After saving those, I did a systems check and discovered that aside from small cuts and scrapes, I appeared to have sustain no major damage.  With gummy bears safely in hand, I was soon on my way again.  (As an aside, the heat made the gummy bears, which are usually yummy race fuel for me, taste disgusting.   I should have let them fall into the gutter!)

For a couple of hours the occasional breeze still felt cool, but as the sun hit our backs, the temp soon crept past what is comfortable for running.  And then it kept on creeping up, to the point where it was hot just walking in the sun.  Or hot just standing in the sun, for the poor volunteers.

I started imagining I was running in Death Valley.   I carried two bottles of water and constantly used one of them to dump water on my head to keep myself cool.  (The downside to this was my shoes squishing loudly on each step after the water ran down my legs.)   At the aid stations, I got as much ice water as possible into me, with more going over my head and neck.   Ice chips down my bra melting in my mouth helped for a few minutes, but a mile or two later I was hot and uncomfortable again and hoping the next checkpoint would appear over the horizen. 

A nice break in the late stages of the race was the river crossing.   As runners, we had a choice of running an extra mile, or getting a boat ride across a tributary of the Kansas River where a bridge had once existed.  It was not a hard choice to take the boat, and there was a short, needed rest before I took my turn crossing the water.  It was an easy choice to soak my shirt in the river again, even if I did smell vaguely fishy the rest of the race.
I kept a very steady pace, running 6 mph for a few hours, then 5.5 mph the rest of the race.  In my mind I was thinking I could possibly win this, but realistically beating 8 hours sounded like a pretty good goal.  At the last checkpoint I had an hour left to cover just over 4 miles, so I knew I could do it.  However I was so hot that I could only run 30 seconds at a time.   Team runners were passing me left and right as we curved around the final huge river levy, but I walked and ran as fast as I could in the heat. 

Although I was drinking a lot of water, I had taken a small dose of ibuprofen earlier in the race, so I was a little worried about my kidneys.   My legs were feeling ok still (yay drugs!), but I knew that in the heat I was sweating out much more than the liquid I was drinking.  It was a very happy minute when the finish line came in sight, and I knew I would make my goal, and then be able to stop moving, finally.

Final time was 7:59:11, and I later found out I finished 3rd out of 13 women and only 24 minutes behind the leader. Also 22nd out of all 75 solo runners.  Very happy with that. 

Results are found on the Enter2Run website.
Tons of race photos here
It was so hot I never felt like eating much, but I was careful to take in small amounts of carbs frequently, and I got the balance just right because I always felt full of energy without being sick to my stomach.   I took in about 400 calories right before the start, and another 1000 calories during the 8 hours.  That number is pretty low, but since it worked, I have to consider that about 100 cal/hr is probably ok, at least for a "short" race like this rather than a multi-day affair.   Well, and if I'm honest, I ate plenty the day before on my 20 hour journey to the States and some of that food was probably still fueling me.

(immediately before the start) 
Mars bar 300 cal (only because I knew it would melt in the car)
Coke 100 cal
(during race)
Gummy bears, 200 cal
1 Gel 90 cal
Perpetuem 250 cal
6 Pringles 50 cal
Shot bloks, 200 cal
Coke, 90 cal
1 salty potato 100 cal

April 3, 2012

Druid's Temple and Ilton Moor

We couldn't help but get outside to enjoy the nice weather of the past week, and decided to explore an area north of us that we had never visited. The idea came courtesy of Jim and Gill's Blog, so many thanks!

Our first stop was the druid's temple, which looks something like an ancient stone circle but was build much more recently by an eccentric local. Bizzare.

Then Rob and I headed out for a circular hike over the moors and past a couple of small reservoirs.   The trail followed a couple of fields and pastures steeply down to a small groves of trees.  It was such a warm nice spring day, that we could actually hear the buds popping out on the trees.  We hadn't felt such wonderful warmth for months and really enjoyed it.  

A short section on the road had us climbing steeply up to the tiny village of Ilton, then finally out onto the open moor.   That's when the navigator (ok, me) had a few map reading screwups all in a row.   Oops.   It all started with a new Grouse Butts path which wasn't on my map (but I thought it was even after walking to the end of it and realizing that we may not be where we wanted to be).   For those of you with confused looks on your faces, a Grouse Butt is a small shooting barrier for hunters of ....Grouse.  I should have realized we weren't in the right spot when the path took us close to the Grouse Butts, as usually those aren't built near established paths. 

To compound a wrong decision, I didn't realize how far we were from the desired path, and and so we took off on a "short-cut" across the heather covered moor.   Double oops. Bushwacking across the open moors through knee-high heather while trying to avoid the mushy spots is hard work.    Rob was a good sport about it all, and since it was such a nice sunny day it was just an adventure rather than a hardship...especially as we were able to avoid boggy sections and keep our feet dry.  We leapfrogged across strips of newly burned heather, which made for easier walking, and after about a mile finally spotted our path again.  Yay. 

I guess you could call our route over Shortlick Hill a "shortcut" but I'm sure it took far longer than the path would have.  Oddly enough, we ended up walking a semi-circle (as I kept changing my mind about where we were) around a tower, which appeared to have no trail actually leading to it.  We were too tired from heather-bashing to do any more to actually walk up to it.  

Once on the path again, we passed a boulderfield of large rocks, which made for a nice lunch stop (we were definitely ready for a break).  Then we dropped down to walk past Roundhill and Leighton Reservoirs.   It was definitely a good day for birdwatching, as we saw countless numbers of geese, ducks, grouse, pheasants and songbirds.  
From the village of Leighton, the path finally climbed back up to the Druid's forest and the parking lot.  We were very grateful to see our car again, feeling quite tired from our off-trail escapades.  With no watch out on the trail, we were guessing the time and were more than an hour off...it had taken us 4 hours to walk a trail which I had estimated at 2-3 hours.  No wonder we were exhausted! 

But even the drive home was nice, going over Pott Moor to Lofthouse, with new baby lambs in every pasture.   In fact the road over the high moor was recently tarmaced, and looked so inviting that I roade my bike back the next day just to see it again   But I'll think twice before heading out into moorland without a trail in front of me!